‘One in four women have experienced at least one incident of violence by an intimate partner, according to Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (ANROWS).’ Reports ABC News Fact File: Domestic Violence in Australia, updated 15th April 2016. I’m sitting with Rob and Denise in the Safe House that they run in Geelong.
‘It’s named Pauline’s House after a mum who experienced domestic violence. Our referrals come via Safe Steps 1800 015 188 the domestic violence hotline, private referrals and local agency referrals. It is a sad fact that the women and children lose a great deal by having to move, losing ties to friends, employment and support networks. They establish a home in areas no-where near their comfort zones. It is true some women relish the opportunity for a new start free of violence but it comes at a cost.
‘Denise and I live on the premises with other staff and offer 24/7 security. We’re always there if the women need to talk. We have both been involved in direct welfare delivery in our previous work. This is a charity we have established to work on issues presenting people in Geelong and wider Victoria.
‘We are in a great location close to the CBD and services our guests will most likely need to access. Geelong has shown itself to be a beautiful place for the women seeking a safe place. In the nine months of operation, Pauline’s House has assisted with 20% of guests relocating to the area predominantly through private rental.
‘We funded the first 12 months ourselves as we completely refurbished the premises. We had a now friend, donate 2 months’ free labour painting. Getting things right takes time but in April ’16 our first high risk guests arrived. High risk means they have been assessed high on a scale of women and children requiring relocation and safety. We have hosted 54 guests since then, stays may last between 4 – 30+ days depending on the need. The women who come from out of Geelong may be individuals or women with their children. Geelong’s high needs women go out of the area for safety.
‘We have 7 rooms of which, some are set up for families, all rooms have a TV, we have a communal lounge, kitchen and dining room. Denise and I have 6 children, they are always involved in what we do in welfare. They help out, one daughter is a chef, our two boys help with removals and others chip in where there are service gaps. We have wonderful volunteers who dedicate their time to making a difference.
‘We provide 3 meals daily, Doctor visits, counselling, help with Centrelink, travel, court appearances and property collection. We source long term housing resettlement in Geelong and help with bond and the initial rent payment and provide ongoing outreach support for up to 12 months.
‘Our charity is Geelong Inclusive Ltd whose aim is to work with and for those people in our community that are disadvantaged or vulnerable. http://www.facebook.com/geelonginclusivelimited/ You’ll find my phone number there or you can message us. Geelong Inclusive also has a Go Fund Me page linked to its Facebook site. We have student placements from The Change Academy Corio and a team of volunteers. For example we have a volunteer qualified to deliver Art Therapy with the guests.
‘If you are time poor and funds poor you can always consider donating furniture. We can either use it here or we use it in the resettlement homes. We saw a need, we were risk takers, bore the strain on our finances and our relationship but have come out of it by creating a homely atmosphere where the women are safe. Many a time we’ve been at our wits end but then something has always come up.
‘We are grateful for the grants we received from Percy Baxter Foundation, City of Greater Geelong. We’d also like to thank Happy Feet Child Care Centre, Dove Opportunity Shop, Bunnings, Coles, Share the Dignity and C J Canny Accountants.’